Howard County's pet portrait artists capture the essence of our animal friends

For Howard Magazine
"People's pets are their children, practically." --Cheri Glover, pet portrait artist

As an artist, Cheri Glover expresses a sentiment about animals that many share from a personal standpoint.

“They’re easier than people,” says the artist, who lives and works in Kings Contrivance.

Even when the subjects of her portraits are dogs, cats, birds or rabbits, though, the painter still aims to please the human eye. And the client’s emotional investment generally matches that of one who commissions a rendering of a family member.

“People’s pets are their children, practically. They’re loved ones,” Glover says, cradling her own animal companion, Gracie, a Shih Tzu-poodle mix.

And when capturing a pet’s likeness, it’s all about character. As Ellicott City-based paper artist Erica Regelin puts it, “You take in the personality of the dog.”

Or the hamster, or the ferret, or the iguana.

Glover and Regelin are among a number of local artists who’ve tapped into the peculiar niche of pet portraiture. Not everyone, it seems, is satisfied with the hundreds of shots of their four-legged friends eating up the memory on their phone; some are willing to pay top-dollar for handcrafted mementos of their animal companions, and Howard County’s artists are happy to oblige.

Art Landerman’s studio in the Howard County Arts Center overflows with examples of the breadth of jobs he’s tackled in his long career as a commercial and fine artist: renderings of houses for builders, illustrations demonstrating exercises used in rehabilitation centers, magazine covers, sketches for murals.

It also holds several pictures, mostly in pastel, of dogs. He says he started doing pet portraiture about 15 years ago and gets those jobs about a dozen times a year. The custom pieces are usually 11 inches by 14 inches and start at $250, or $350 for one in oils.

He advertises his services as a pet-portrait artist in a couple of magazines for dog enthusiasts. He doesn’t set up a table at pet shows nearly as often as he used to.

“Pet shows are good for [selling] trinkets, but not $500 portraits,” Landerman says. “Everybody’s got a $20 bill, but nobody whips out a checkbook.”

One pet show that did result in a commission took place a dozen or so years ago, when Landerman encountered Kari Cole of Woodbine.

“He had, in the past, done a portrait of my son,” she says. “We met him at a dog show, and my ex-husband hired him to do a portrait of our English bulldog.”

The large canvas “took up half the wall in my office,” Cole says.

Shows also gave a boost to artist Sherry Kendall, who began turning out Christmas ornaments with portraits of dogs painted on them 10 years ago.

“I painted one for my aunt, and out of the blue it turned into a business,” she says.

The graduate of New York’s Parsons School of Design one day took samples of her work to a show and “almost didn’t bring my ornaments,” she says.

Good thing she did. They caught the eye of some of Oprah Winfrey’s staff who happened by. In 2011, Kendall’s dog-faced ornaments appeared in “O” magazine’s annual “favorite things” edition.

Sales took off as orders from across the country poured in. Kendall had to take on extra help to get them shipped.

One can now find Kendall’s work in some 80 stores and an old house along Frederick Road in Woodbine that serves as Kendall’s studio. Just about every room is filled with her paintings of pets on canvas, wine glasses, beer mugs and, of course, Christmas ornaments.

Kendall’s style falls somewhere between the highly detailed, illustration-oriented and the cartoony, broad-strokes ends of the pet-portrait spectrum.

“I think of it as fun and funky, not super-realistic,” she says. “But it makes you smile.”

David Scheirer, on the other hand, produces custom portraits of pets in a more realistic style. Scheirer, who works out of his home in Woodbine, graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2004. He started producing pet portraits, mostly in watercolor, about 10 years ago.

“I do a lot of nature painting. Birds and animals is something I do anyway,” Scheirer says.

The Kensington native says most of his work comes through Etsy and other arts-oriented sites. He gets between $180 and $250 for an 8-inch by 10-inch portrait, which takes him about a day to complete.

The breeds he’s most often asked to paint?

“A lot of Labs. Pit bulls are fairly common.”

More whimsical are the pet portraits of Cheri Glover, who often incorporates the animal’s favored toy or inside-the-family jokes and references. One recent subject, for instance, wears a princess crown in her portrait.

“I go on Facebook and see [the owner] went to Mexico and likes the Orioles,” Glover says.

Glover — who will produce a 4-inch by 4-inch portrait for $60 and a 14-inch by 12-inch for $100 — spent her early childhood in Seattle and had artistic ambitions from the start.

“When I was 7, I painted rocks and tried to sell them to the neighbors,” she says.

Her father, retired Rouse Co. vice president Earl Glover, brought the family east when Cheri was a teenager. She graduated from Towson University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

Her graphic arts work includes web design, logos, site plans and product design. She also produces punny greeting cards.

“I do whatever,” she says.

Erica Regelin’s animal artwork comes off as mostly representational, but her renderings of dogs, cats, sea horses, roosters, crabs and other critters depart radically from traditional wildlife and pet pictures.

Regelin creates outlines of animals on her computer that go to an electronic die-cutter that cuts card-stock paper to create the shape, which she then mounts on backgrounds usually made of old books or magazines that she has cut by hand into strips.

The end product gives a sense of dimension on a virtually flat surface within the frame, which she also makes. The effect is heightened when she mounts the figure on felt pads atop the background.

Most of her work, all done in her home studio in Ellicott City, depicts generic animals, but Regelin does custom work as well. Most of her bookings for these jobs come from contacts made at art shows.

Lori Swim, who works with Regelin’s mother, Nancy, at a local law firm, confesses to being a serial customer.

“I’ve bought a lot,” Swim says, adding that she’s gotten other office mates into the act, too. “They always ask, ‘What’s Erica working on?’ ” 

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad

Fun fact

None of the artists we interviewed recalled ever being asked for a portrait of a pet fish.

48°